Four coaches in NHL history have reached the 700-win club and Ken Hitchcock is one of them after a 1-0 shootout win Thursday over Philadelphia. A tough defensive showing in front of a Brian Elliott shutout earned Hitch the milestone home victory on a night his team moved into first place in the division.
St. Louis and Nashville currently sit at 91 points, but the Blues hold two games in hand over the slumping Predators. Following the victory, Hitchcock spoke about the fun of coaching a game that was so well-played on both sides.
“I was standing on the bench with maybe 9:22 was on the clock and I said, ‘whatever happens happens, but this has been a really fun game to coach in,'” Hitchcock said. “And when you get these type of games where every shift matters and every play matters, they are a lot of fun to coach in.
“Over the course of the season you maybe get a dozen of these games and this was one of them,” Hitchcock added.
Elliott stopped 28 pucks and the Flyers’ Steve Mason stopped 35 including an impressive one to his left on Jori Lehtera halfway through the third period. Following the game, Elliot complimented his Philly counterpart along with the play of the Blues’ defensemen.
“Mason played unbelievable down at the other end, so I was just trying to keep pace,” Elliott said. “We played our game that we wanted to, I think. My guys were blocking shots. You saw (Petteri) Lindbohm go down in a butterfly to take one kind of in the chest. That’s the sacrifices guys were making.”
Carl Gunnarsson and Alex Pietrangelo blocked five shots each for the Blues in scoreless regulation and overtime. With the shutout, Elliott nets his 20th for the note and ties former teammate Jaroslav Halak for the franchise record.
“It’s cool when you get individual accolades, but you always say when you get a shutout, especially in a game like that, it’s a whole team thing,” Elliott said. “It’s a team stat how the guys play in front of you. You’re not out there alone.”
Only two rounds were needed in the shootout after goals from T. J. Oshie and Vladimir Tarasenko were followed by Elliott stops against Jakob Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.
With the win, Hitchcock joins Joel Quenneville (746), Al Arbour (782), and Scotty Bowman (1,244) as the four winningest coaches of all time.
“There’s nobody in the company of Al and Scotty,” Hitchcock said. “Between Cups and wins … I think if Al wanted to coach a few more years, he would have been way up there too.
“I’ve said this before, first thing is the guy you work with. It’s the general manager. That’s the key for me. I’ve been really fortunate that way. And then secondly for me is you’ve got to have good teams. I came right out of the gate in Dallas and had good teams and I’ve had good teams that were really building something in Columbus that kind of derailed a little bit, but other than that, I’ve been on nothing but good teams. That’s how you get where you’re at.”
Bowman, Arbour, and Quenneville all began their NHL head coaching careers with the Blues and went on to win Stanley Cups with other teams. Perhaps Hitch will buck the trend.